Since 1919, Champion has inspired athletes and active people on and off the field as one of the America's most popular sportswear brands. While their clothing was adopted as streetwear as early as the 1970s, in recent years they've seen a huge revival as heritage sports brands gain traction among style lovers.
Read more Brands features.
As time goes on, fashion is becoming increasingly focused on the marriage of comfort and style and the concept of power dressing, popular in the 80s, is becoming an archaic idea of a bygone era. As a result, many sportswear brands across the globe have tapped into new markets by becoming the go-to destinations for the modern, young workforce.
Alongside their classic lines, many athletic labels now offer smarter, more contemporary alternatives that maintains the comfort and versatility of the brand while tweaking certain elements to increase it's suitability to working environments. Champion is one such brand that has seen massive growth in recent years as well as becoming one of the modern day man's go-to sportswear providers.
But where did it all start? Check out the story of Champion below.
The History of Champion
1919 - 1930
In 1919 the Feinbloom brothers established the company that would eventually become known as “Champion”. Modern sport was taking its first step, athletes were passionate about sportswear but athletic apparel was often improvised and not fit for purpose.
The business of dressing University teams began to gain traction with the first partnership in Michigan. They had noticed that Champion was passionate about sports apparel and manufactured high quality sweatshirts and sweatpants at an affordable price. As time went on, Champion’s reputation started to spread as Coaches from Michigan spoke with coaches from other schools and colleges across the U.S.
1930 - 1960
In the 1930’s the company was renamed Champion Knitting Mills Inc. Well known for sweatshirts, t-shirts & athletic socks, they became the brand of choice for college bookstores right across America.
As a prototype of the sweatshirt, they produced wool based underwear designed to protect outdoor workers from cold weather. With time, the reputation for functionality and durability grew and grew and by the mid 1930’s Champion products were adopted by the US Military Academy for use during training exercises and physical education classes.
This chain of events led to the introduction of the first ever hooded sweatshirt designed and developed for practical reasons as a warm up or “sideline” garment for athletes to wear in-between game time or practice sessions.
It was around this time that Champion developed the first version of the Reverse Weave Sweatshirt. The idea of the Reverse Weave came from the American coaches of the 40s, the technique allowed coaches wash the entire team of athletes uniforms without damage. That’s why to avoid horizontal shrinkage, the fibre fleece is turned upright at the time of creation, hence the name Reverse Weave.
All Reverse Weave sweatshirts are characterised by the two side panels on the sides. Even the cuffs, neck and hem of the Reverse Weave sweatshirts have the same characteristic of the inserts in order to avoid the dispersion of heat during and after training whilst keeping the freedom of movement.
In 1938 we saw the initiation of the Patent Application Process in order to certificate and validate the revolutionary and technical procedure called Reverse Weave. The process was suspended during World War 2 and eventually finalize almost fifteen years later in 1952.
1960 - 1990
The redesigned logo, the now familiar “C” mark appeared for the first time and it was affixed from then on to the left sleeve of the sweatshirt. This logo and positioning would become synonymous with Champion.
During the 1960’s Champion entered into an intensive licensing program which started with the National College Athletic Association and expanded in the 1970’s with a partnership with the National Football League (NFL).
During the 1970’s Champion continued to innovate in their athletic apparel program and transcended what it meant to be a true athletic brand by becoming the first Company to produce the Double Sided (or reversible) T-Shirt. They were also the first to develop and manufacture a “Breathable” Nylon Mesh fabric, that would go on to become the staple fabric for Basketball Uniforms across the Globe.
Whilst Champion introduced the original hooded sweatshirt back in the 1930s, it wasn't until the early 1970s that it really exploded in popularity with the Champion mainstay making its first steps from the Sports Field to the Street by being adopted by street fashion and music culture.
1990 - 2010
Champion further strengthened its position at the forefront of American sport by acquiring the exclusive rights to be the official outfitter of all 27 teams of the National Basketball Association. This was a golden era for the NBA and this partnership established Champion as the authentic and “go to” Brand for all authentic on court and off court merchandise for the NBA. Today, many NBA enthusiasts and collectors still hone in on iconic Champion pieces from the 90’s, such was the importance and nostalgia of this decade in the sport of Basketball.
Champion were the official outfitter for the first and arguably the best ever USA Dream Team at the historical Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The Dream Team went on to win the Gold Medal and this helped Champion establish their reputation as an Authentic, Athletic, Apparel brand in Europe.
To mark the 60th Anniversary of the year when they first patented the Reverse Weave Sweatshirt, Champion relaunched this legendary product in Europe. This also coincided with the increase in demand from key opinion formers, early adopters and fashion savvy consumers who were being influenced by the music and streetwear culture of the 1990’s
2010 - Present
The original, heavyweight and understated line of sweatshirts, t-shirts, sweatpants and shorts, all bearing the iconic Champion “C” logo were introduced to a new generation of consumers. Nearly 100 years later, Champion continues to be widely recognised as the pioneer of the sweatshirt and proving yet again that: There are many contenders but only one Champion.
Champion continue to make history with their new and exciting range of clothes. Through a combination of classic aesthetic and innovative design Champion manage to keep producing some of the best streetwear clothing around. Here's a few of our favourite pieces.
Your Quick Guide to The History of Champion
- In 1919 the Feinbloom brothers established the company that would eventually become known as “Champion”.
- In the 1930’s the company was renamed Champion Knitting Mills Inc.
- In 1938 we saw the initiation of the Patent Application Process in order to certificate and validate the revolutionary and technical procedure called Reverse Weave.
- During the 1960’s Champion entered into an intensive licensing program which started with the National College Athletic Association and expanded in the 1970’s with a partnership with the National Football League (NFL).
And there we have it! While the recent rise of Champion as a favourite among street stylers, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a fresh, contemporary brand only created in recent times. It just goes to show, a brand that knows it's customer - can easily transcend the times.